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Francie, the speaker of Moore’s "How to Become a Writer," comments a number of times about how she has been told, by teachers and fellow students, that the plots of her stories are weak. Superficially, the same comment might be made about "How to Become a Writer." Therefore it is important to note that the story does indeed have a plot. One may perceive that the time lapse may be as much as seven or eight or more years, from high school to the period after college graduation. The period is that of the Vietnam War (1965–1975), for Francie describes a brother who has served in Vietnam, has been wounded, and has returned home. Despite the episodic nature of "How to Become a Writer," and despite its lack of direct narrative presentation, the story also dramatizes a conflict. On the one hand, Francie adheres to the view that writing is an irresistible outgrowth of either nature or affliction (writing is "a lot like having polio" [paragraph 41])—the idea being that a writer is born, not made (poeta nascitur, non fit). On the other hand, the "how to" title seems committed to the opposing view that writing is a learned skill or science.
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